I spend a lot of time thinking about how to introduce new technology and methods into the lodge to help with organization and productivity. I tend to beat this drum loudly, because I love masonry and do not wish to see it become obsolete. I will freely admit that there are many individuals out there that are progressive for the sake of being progressive. We all know that guy who has to have the newest gadget and the most shiney technology. I am not one of those individuals. I do not believe that throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a good way to approach a problem. New does not always mean good.
Life is about balance. We, as masons, are taught that we are a point within a circle, which represents guarding our passions from extremism of all forms. To be completely new school means that you do not heed the lessons of the past and are doomed to repeat the mistakes of history. To be completely old school means that you are not open to the new ideas being developed by your contemporaries and that dynamic world we live in will push you to the side. I like to think that as masons we are the best mix of old and new school. We profess an admiration for ancient knowledge and revere the heroes of the past, while looking toward the future and presenting the modern world with the forward-thinking ideals of friendship, morality and brotherly love.
So, what's the point of this post? Because all ideals should be tempered with action, I will write about what old school methods still work in masonic lodges. What old school technologies and methods do we use that still produce positive results? I will now imitate my previous two posts and give a two part list of what I see in the lodge that has been around for awhile and still works.
- Ritual - Man has used ritual from time immemorial. Coming of age, holidays, religion, marriage, hunting prayers, rain dances, etc. are all examples of how mankind has used ritual since the dawn of civilization. Masonic ritual is a vast, rich and complex system that changes the mindset of the candidate and instills in him wise and serious truths. Knowledge and wisdom is bestowed in a way that can not be duplicated with a book or a computer. An iPhone or a plasma TV can not reproduce the experience of masonic ritual. It is purely a social situation and is the primary purpose of the lodge. A masonic lodge is there to make masons and masons are made through ritual. It sets us apart from the uninitiated, makes us better men and is totally old school.
- Dues Cards - I once heard a young brother in our lodge say, "Why do we need dues cards? Can't we just email the lodge we're going to visit?" That piece of paper is your traveling papers, gifted to you by King Solomon. It represents the lesson of the third degree, where through faith and trustworthiness you have earned your right to travel in foreign lands. It's true that a dues card can be faked, but so can an email, a letter and a phone call. But it's difficult to fake the look of pride a mason has on his face when he hands you his dues card and says "Yes, I'm a traveling man."
- Scholarship - The days of independent scholarship and reflection seem so far away for some. With the internet, satellite TV and cell phones, many people have forgotten how to think. Answers can be quickly gained by typing into a search engine, but are the answers you receive correct? Scholarship is about critical thinking, not about finding answers. True knowledge can never be given, it must be searched for and discovered. The halls of masonry are filled with countless texts, drawings and symbols to help the brethren in their search for knowledge. A lodge's most important physical asset is its documentation. Through years of painstaking transcription, masons can learn our history and therefore prepare for our future.
- Learning Mouth-to-Ear - A brother can sit at home, by himself and learn our ritual from a blue book. Although he is learning masonic ritual, is he practicing its tenets? Our brotherhood is about being brothers. Learning ritual through your brothers is the best way to learn. Freemasonry is still one of the few places in the world where people can find an oral tradition. Through our oral tradition, we not only learn ritual, we hear stories, learn about triumphs, experience downfalls and gain wisdom that could never be placed into a non-living receptacle like a book or a PDA.
- Pen and Paper - I almost never see masons taking notes during a stated communication. However, I do see many brothers forgetting meeting times, missing events and not being prepared for degrees, simply because they forgot. All brothers in the lodge should have a pad of paper and a pen at meetings. Trestleboards are not always correct and don't have all the information you need. Minutes from stated communications are difficult to get between meetings. The mind forgets most of what it hears. It sounds simple, but write down some notes, so that you'll remember it later. It's quick, easy and cheap and it will save on alot of headaches in the future.